Tuesday, September 26, 2006

There is nowhere I can go in the text and not find Christ

In response to my post on Christ being the object and the subject of the entire Bible, Brian Jonson asked a pertinent question with 2 Sam. 20 as an example: How is it that Christ can be the subject of every jot and tittle of the Old Testament when there are texts where Christ is not obvious?

This is a good question. And it is also a question that has been anticipated throughout the duration of my blog because it has been an impetus for a blog that highlights Vos and the eschatological nature of revelation. Richard Gaffin rightly notes in his Resurrection and Redemption, that Vos understood Christ to be the “raison d’etre” for revelation. Christ is the focal point of revelation. He is its centerpiece. He is the reason for its existence. It is in Christ that revelation finds its consummation. Because this is so, there is no part of revelation that escapes Christ’s centrality.

How is this so? There are several interrelated and inseparable reasons for this. Brad has already alluded to this. “Christ is the revelation of God in the flesh”. Hebrews 1:2 tells us that Christ is THE revelation of God to man. Christ tells Philip “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Christ’s statement to Philip isn’t mere affirmation of Christ’s union with the Father. It is a statement grounded in Christ’s identification as THE WORD. Thus, The Word, which we call “The Bible”, is inseparable from THE WORD. Among the many implications of John’s use of “Logos” in John 1 is that Christ is the source of The Word. Christ spoke all things into existence, including the revelation of God given to man in the Word (highlighted in Paul’s use of the word “breathed” in 2 Tim. 3... the breath of God that breathed both Creation and its life has also breathed The Word and its life).

Not only is Christ THE revelation of God, Christ is THE mediator between God and man. We’re used to relegating that comment from Paul in 1 Timothy 2:5 to a *function* of the cross. Christ, our priest, was our go-between in satisfying God’s wrath. But Paul’s comment is much more comprehensive and pervasive, especially when we’re told in Hebrews 1 that Christ is THE revelation from God and we’re told in John 1 that Christ is THE WORD. This is in the backdrop of Christ’s statement to Philip: if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. There is no revelation from God or of God the Father and Holy Spirit except that it is mediated through Christ because Christ *is* the revelation of God. No one can see God and live, unless they see God *in* Jesus Christ. We will only ever see God in Jesus Christ.

If we then take the profile of Christ given to us in John 14, John 1, Hebrews 1, and 1 Timothy 2 and include what Christ says in Luke 24:25-27, 44-47 and John 5:39 about how he wants us to interpret the Old Testament, we find that there is a comprehensiveness to the written Word’s revelation about THE revelation from God. The rhythm of revelation throughout redemptive history has been: God acts; God interprets those acts for us (via the written Word). Christ is God’s ultimate revelatory Act in history. God has acted in Christ. God’s interpretation of that Act, is by necessity *about* Christ. Revelation, then, is the unfolding interpretation in redemptive history of God’s acts, consummating in God’s ultimate Act, Christ himself. It is the Christ event that ties all of revelation together. Thus, there is nowhere I can go in the text and not find Christ.

It is true that the Bible reveals the glory of God and the Bible has been written for His glory. But, to piggyback on Brad’s thought, that’s not the *only* consideration of interpretation. We affirm it is for his glory. But we also affirm that the Bible is presenting *how* God is glorified in the text: through the promises and fulfillment of the Old Testament in His Son. The glory of God cannot be compartmentalized away from or apart from the ultimate revelation of that glory in Christ. To see the shekinah glory of the tabernacle in the Old Testament is to see the shekinah glory fulfilled in Christ at the mount of transfiguration. To see the glory of God on a blazing throne in Ezekiel is to see the glory of Christ blazing in front of John on the Lord’s day in Revelation 1. The former is a precursor of the latter. The NT authors fully understood this when they identify Jesus as the Jehovah of the Old Testament (see Luke 1:16ff, John 12:37-41, 2 Cor. 3:17, Eph. 4:8 where OT passages about Jehovah are applied to Christ).

This is why Genesis 3:15 is so important, not just in terms of God’s promise of the coming Messiah, but in terms of the revelation of that coming Messiah. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, the Old Testament authors are following the development of that text in their own circumstances. This is the flow of redemptive history through the text. It is what we call the “Messianic consciousness” of the Old Testament authors. Underpinning every event, every narrative in the passages of the Old Testament is an interaction with God’s promise of a coming messiah and the development of that promise in real time and space, especially in the history of a people named “Israel”. Israel, created by God, just like revelation which interprets her history, has her culmination in Christ himself. Because revelation is always interacting with Israel’s history, it is always interacting with the Messiah’s history.

A couple of months ago, I posted the following from Wilhelm Vischer: “The Bible testifies beyond doubt, with the attestation of the Holy Spirit, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. This is what makes it the Holy Scripture of the Christian Church. For the Christian Church is the company of all those who, on the basis of the biblical testimony, recognize and believe that Jesus is the Christ, i.e. the Messiah of Israel, the Son of the living God, the Saviour of the world.

“The two main words of the Christian confession “Jesus is the Christ”—the personal name “Jesus” and the vocational name “Christ”—correspond to the two parts of the Holy Scriptures: the New and the Old Testament. The Old Testament tells us *what* the Christ is; the New, *who* He is – and indeed in such a manner as to make it clear that he alone knows Jesus who recognizes Him as the Christ, and he alone knows what the Christ is who knows that He is Jesus. So the two Testaments, breathing the same spirit, point to each other, 'and there is no word in the New Testament that does not look back to the Old, in which it is foretold,’ (quote from Luther) and all the words of the Old Testament look beyond themselves to the One in the New in whom alone they are true.

“Strictly speaking only the Old Testament is “The Scripture”, while the New Testament brings the good news that now the meaning of these writings, the import of all their words, their Lord and Fulfiller, has appeared incarnate. Every book of the New Testament, each in its own way, makes this pronouncement."
– Wilhelm Vischer, The Witness of the Old Testament to Christ, pp. 7, 8

Vischer is saying the same thing we are saying about the interpretation of scripture... “The Old Testament tells us *what* the Christ is... *all* the words of the Old Testament look beyond themselves to the One in the New in whom alone they are true.”